Sunday, August 31, 2008

Observation On RNC Protestors

I've always thought it was curious that there are thousands of lefties who demonstrate and protest at Republican and conservative events, often times accompanied by several arrests, but you will almost never here of righties demonstrating and protesting at Democratic and liberal events. Is it that conservatives aren't as passionate as liberals about their ideas? Or is it maybe that conservatives are just not that rude? I tend to think the second option is more likely. Seriously, there are a million things I can find to disagree with in the democratic platform, but I won't be protesting and causing havoc at any liberal events in the near future. They're entitled to their beliefs, and they can go ahead and celebrate them. Why don't the lefty protestors just let the conservatives have their moment in the sun? (to be fair, the DNC was protested, but not by conservatives - it was protested by radical liberals who think the democrats aren't liberal enough!)

My line of thinking was inspired by my wife as we sat and watched the evening news tonight. The story was that much of the RNC proceedings have been and will be affected by the arrival of hurricane Gustav to the Gulf Coast. Much of the festivities and parties that make up the convention have been (rightly) postponed or canceled out of respect for the potential disaster down south.

It should be noted however (but the media hasn't), that the protestors will continue to protest, even in the absence of many of those they are protesting against. One protestor on the news said that this protest has been in the works for the past two years, and they refuse to call it off, even if the Republicans aren't in the building. Doesn't she realize that the RNC at the X has also been in the works for just as long, cost way more money to plan and implement, but they have chosen to cancel and postpone? Sounds like the protestors should take a cue from the Republicans on this one.

Another interesting thing to think about is that the protestors are protesting the Republicans for being cruel, heartless, war mongers who love to see the innocent oppressed, or so they believe. But the Republicans are canceling parts of the convention out of heartfelt compassion for people! Could that be more ironic? And another thing: the republicans are canceling, but the protestors are insisting that the protest will go on - in spite of the fact that hurricane Gustav is barreling down on the Gulf Coast! Couldn't we thus conclude that the protestors are the heartless, cruel people who are looking after their own interests rather than those who are oppressed by the hurricane? It seems that they've become what they hate!


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Political Prayer

If you're into politics at all, you've probably at least seen or heard some of the DNC. My interest was piqued when I heard that Cameron Strang, editor of Relevant Magazine initially accepted an offer to pray at the DNC, but then backed out because he didn't want to imply that he or his magazine endorsed the democratic party. I find that reasoning to be astounding. Strang didn't realize the incredible offer he'd been given. Pray on a national stage! You wouldn't be able to hold me back. You wouldn't have to endorse the party or what they stand for by praying at their convention. Instead, you could go there to boldly proclaim the gospel and to the wind with any thought of an endorsement. If I were invited to pray at the DNC (which I'm sure will happen next time) I would accept and pray the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Since Strang declined the opportunity to pray, the offer was then given to Donald Miller(by the way, if you follow this link, check out the picture at the top of his blog - it looks more corny than mine, except he's being serious!), idol of 20-something Christians and author of "Blue Like Jazz" (a book that I have a lot of issues with, although it is a fun read). It turns out that Strang's misplaced fear of inadvertently (or probably better put, intentionally) endorsing the democratic party was realized in Donald Miller. Here's a transcription of Miller's prayer, or if you're not into reading, watch the video.

"Father God, this week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future. We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation. We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy. Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left. Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them. Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions. Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle. Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education. Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony. We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help. Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world? A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American. Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world? Help us be an example of humility and strength once again. Lastly, father, unify us. Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common. And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish. God we know that you are good. Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans. I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice. Let Him be our example. Amen."

Allow me to point out a few things regarding Miller's prayer:

1) He totally whiffed on presenting the gospel in any shape, form, or fashion which, I think, is a shame. What an amazing audience! The DNC had 40 million television viewers! Not to mention all those who would see the video on YouTube and other places. It was a prime time (literally) opportunity to share the gospel, and it wasn't there.

2) His prayer wasn't much more than a statement of the democratic platform. For example: liberal social programs, universal healthcare, wage increases, funding college tuition, taxing big business, (democratic) unification, etc.

3) Miller expressed the democratic platform as right, true, sound, and the will of God. Now I'm not saying it isn't the will of God (although I'm about thaaaat close to saying it), but it's pretty presumptuous to think that God's on board with the democratic platform. He prayed about those meeting at the DNC and those meeting the following week at the RNC to make the right choice and adopt universal health care (oh if only those crazy republicans would see the light, that God wants us to have universal healthcare!).

4) The last line of Miller's prayer is an absolute travesty: "I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice. Let Him be our example." First of all, if you watch the video, he stresses the word "I," as if this were only his sentiment - as if this was just his opinion, but others could pray to a different God. We don't want to be exclusive. Also, the thought that Jesus "gave his own life against the forces of injustice" is completely unbiblical - you won't find that anywhere in the Bible. Jesus didn't give his life in against the forces of injustice. In fact, he did the exact opposite: he gave it against the forces of justice! He gave it to satisfy God's justice - that one man might bear the wrath of God for all men. Justice is the reason that Jesus died on the cross, not injustice. Don, read your Bible. Please read your Bible.

There are a lot of bloggers out there criticizing people (like me) who are critiquing Miller's prayer, and saying that it's wrong to find error in an individual's heartfelt cry to God. Well let me ask you this: what would the apostle Paul have thought if he heard this prayer in one of the churches he ministered to? He'd take them aside and tell them that the way they saw God was completely skewed. He'd tell them that Jesus didn't die because of the forces of injustice. Theology is important. It's important to know what the Bible says and what it means. Your knowledge of scripture informs your knowledge of God, and your knowledge of God will inform the way you interact with God, in this case, prayer.

In conclusion, I think it's a shame that a noted, popular Christian stood before potentially 40 million viewers and did such a poor job of showing the world who God is, who Jesus is, and who his followers are and what they are about.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

100 Things To Do Before You Die

In Luke 13 Jesus is talking to some people about death. He basically tells them that everyone dies, no matter how "good" or "bad" they are, and that the moral of the story is that everyone should "repent or perish." In other words, Jesus is saying that everyone is going to die...and they need to be ready for it.

Cut to August 17. Did you hear the news? Dave Freeman died. Who's he? He's the co-author of "100 Things To Do Before You Die." He apparently had a nasty fall at his house, hit his head on something, and it killed him. He was 47 years old. I looked on the internet, but I couldn't find any report about how many of the "100 things" Dave accomplished before he died. I assume he did all or most of them - after all, he was one of the authors of the book. But I'm pretty sure he wasn't expecting to kick the bucket at the tender age of 47.

I'm sure he still had a lot that he wanted to do, places to see, destinations to visit, adventures to have. But it was all cut short because he slipped, fell, and hit his head. Do you think he was planning on that happening? Surely not. And despite his list of 100 things, there was really only one thing on his list (whether he knew it or not) that was essential: be ready to die.

Back to Luke 13: Jesus gives an example of a large tower that collapsed and fell, and killed 18 people back in his day. He says that there was nothing about these 18 people that caused the tower to fall on them. In other words, karma didn't make the tower fall and kill them - it just happened because it happened. They weren't super evil people who deserved to die for something they did or did not do. Accidents just happen and sometimes, people are killed. It doesn't make sense, there's no rational rhyme or reason for it, it just happens. The warning Jesus gives is startlingly to the point: "...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Jesus' point is that you don't know what's coming. You might be walking down the street and have a tower collapse on your head. You might be driving across a collapsing bridge and fall to your death. You might be in a tower, minding your own business at work when someone flies a plane into your building. You might be killed in a tornado or a hurricane. You might slip in the shower and bang your head on the sink. The point is, YOU DON'T KNOW. No one ever expects to be tragically killed. And since we live in an evironment of such uncertainty and accidents, what should we do? Repent.

John Piper's ministry released this video after the 35W bridge collapse, and it would be well worth your time to watch it:

This is not a scare tactic - it is reality. Again, just ask Dave Freeman. Or ask the people who died on 9/11. Or ask the people who died in Hurricane Katrina. Do you think they were expecting it?

Most people have their list of things they want to do before they die, and they look forward to the things on that list. They want to accomplish these things because they want to do something interesting with their life. What they take for granted though, is that it could all be over in an instant. Just ask Dave Freeman. People don't realize that the number one item on your list of things to do before you die is to get saved. And don't go on to number two until you've completed number one. It might be you who slips and falls and bangs your head.

I probably haven't (and won't) accomplish 99 of the 100 things that Freeman says I need to do before I die, but I can still go to the grave knowing that the most important thing on that list is taken care of.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

His Life Is The Textbook

MESSAGE: One Life: Fruit (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 6.43-45

His Life Is The Textbook from In His Steps by J.R. Miller, 1897:

"Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

Jesus took His first disciples into His school and for three years taught and trained them. He made known to them the great truths of Christianity, which He had come to reveal. Then He taught them how to live.

Bible knowledge alone, does not alone make one a godly Christian. One might know all the great facts and doctrines of the Word of God, might be a profound Bible scholar and a wise theologian—and yet not be an advanced or even a growing Christian!

We are to learn to live Christ as well as to know the truths about Christ. Jesus in His teachings makes a great deal of obedience. We are His friends—if we do whatever He commands us. We are to learn to be patient, meek, gentle, long suffering, compassionate. We are to learn to be humble, kindly affectioned, unselfish, truthful, sincere.

We enter Christ's school, to be trained in all the qualities which make up the true Christian life.

The lessons the Bible sets for us—we are to learn to live out in common life. Every word of Christ sets a copy for us, as it were—and we are to learn to write it in fair and beautiful lines.

For example, it is not enough to learn from the Beatitudes, that certain qualities are praised by the great Teacher; we are to get the Beatitudes into our own life as quickly and as perfectly as we can.

Just so of all the teachings of Christ—they are not for knowing merely, as one learns the fine sayings of favorite literary writers; they are for living! They are to become lamps to our feet and lights to our path—and they are to be wrought into the web of our character.

In the school of Christ, we are not to expect perfection—but we have a right to expect an increasing knowledge of spiritual things, and also spiritual growth in all the qualities which belong to Christian character. We should become . . .
 more patient,
 more loving,
 more unselfish,
 more helpful, 
 more faithful in all duty,
 more like Christ!

The ideal Christian life—is a growing likeness to Christ. Christ is the pattern after which we are to strive to fashion our life. As we study Christ in the Gospels, there rises up before us, the vision of His matchless beauty. We go over the chapters, and we find one fragment of His loveliness here, and another there. And as we read the story through to the end—beauty after beauty appears, until at length we see a full vision of our blessed Redeemer.

This is the pattern we are to follow in fashioning our lives. This is the vision we are to seek to carve into reality in our own character. All our acts we are to bring to the example of Christ, testing each one by that infallible standard.

Jesus should be studied by the Christian, as a builder studies the architect's drawings—that every minutest detail may be exactly reproduced; so far as in a faulty and sinful human life, the character and conduct of the faultless and sinless Jesus can be reproduced.

The perfect pattern is ever to be held before us for imitation, and as we look at it glowing in all its marvelous beauty—yet far above us and beyond our present reach—we are to comfort ourselves and stir our hearts to the noblest efforts and highest attainments by the thought, "That is what I shall one day be!"

However slow may be our progress toward that perfect ideal; however sore the struggles with weakness and sin; however often we fail—we are never to lose sight of the distant goal, nor cease to strive and press toward the mark. Some day, if we are faithful to the end and faint not—we shall emerge out of all failure and struggle, and, seeing Jesus as He is—we shall be fully transformed into His blessed image!

Such is the aim of the Christian life. "We shall be like Him!"—that is the final destiny of every redeemed life. This should be inspiration enough, to arouse in the dullest Christian, every sluggish hope and every slumbering energy—and to impel to the highest effort and the most heroic struggle.

Jesus is not only the teacher—His life is the text book which we are to study. Part of His mission to this world, was to show us in Himself—a pattern of a godly life. We are to look to His life to learn just how to live, the kind of character we are to seek to have, the meaning of the lessons which His words set for us. We are in the school of Christ—to be trained in all Christian life and duty.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Judge Not...

Every day in my email I get a "Grace Gem" from an organization that provides commentaries and devotionals from old school preachers and puritans. These emails are awesome. They're humbling, instructive, and informative (plus I like reading the old school english sometimes). You get great stuff from the likes of Spurgeon, Thomas Watson, and a whole host of other super-brilliant dead preachers.

Anywho, this is the Grace Gem from today, and I thought I'd post it here to share with the other two of you who read this blog since it's directly related to our message series at SHOUT this month. Miller does an excellent job in explaining this often-adulterated passage. Enjoy.

From Judging Others, by J.R. Miller, 1894 (If you'd like to read the original entire article, go here).

It is better to have eyes for beauty--than for blemish. It is better to be able to see the roses--than the thorns. It is better to have learned to look for things to commend in others--than for things to condemn. Of course, other people have faults--and we are not blind to them. But then, we have faults of our own--and this should make us charitable!

We have a divine teaching on the subject. Our Lord Jesus said, "Do not judge--or you too will be judged." We need to understand just what the words mean. We cannot help judging others. We ought to be able to read character, and to know whether men are good or bad. As we watch men's acts--we cannot help forming opinions about them. The holier we grow, and the more like Christ--the keener will our moral judgments be. We are not bidden to shut our eyes--and to be blind to people's faults and sins.

What, then, do our Lord's words mean? It is uncharitable judgment against which He warns us. We are not to look for the evil things in others. We are not to see others through the warped glasses of prejudice and unkindly feeling. We are not to arrogate to ourselves the function of judging--as if others were answerable to us! We are to avoid a critical or censorious spirit. Nothing is said against speaking of the good in those we see and know; it is uncharitable judging and speaking, which Jesus condemns.

One reason why judging is wrong--is because it is putting one's self in God's place. He is the only Judge, with whom every human soul has to do. Judgment is not ours--but God's. "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?" James 4:12. In condemning and censuring others--we are thrusting ourselves into God's place, taking His scepter into our hands, and presuming to exercise one of His sole prerogatives!

Another reason for this command--is that we cannot judge others justly and fairly. We have not sufficient knowledge of them. Paul says: "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts." 1 Corinthians 4:5. Our judgments cannot be anything but faulty, partial and superficial.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One Year of Jamie

It's absolutely amazing how time flies when you have kids. I know everybody who has kids says that, but it really is absolutely true. I can't believe he's a year old already. It's only 17 years till he graduates from high school! I'm sure those 17 years will fly by as quickly as this past year has.

I thought I'd chronicle his first life on earth month by month, so you could see how he has progressed. He started out at 4 1/2 pounds, having been born 6 weeks early, and now he's pushing 24 pounds and is taller than 95% of the kids his age. Here's Jamie's life so far:

August 2007 (the day he was born - little did we know that he would spend the next three weeks in the NICU)

September 2007

October 2007 (of which the Twins had no part)

November 2007 (obviously November was a slow month for pictures)

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Worshiping At The Altar of Chuck Taylor

We've been talking at SHOUT for the past three weeks about using our lives for meaningful things - filling our days with actions for Christ that will last for eternity. It got me thinking when I saw this dude:

This guy says he loves Chucks and he's been on a mission to collect as many pairs as possible. Now don't get me wrong: I love Chucks. I've owned a pair every year of my life since I was 13. In my opinion, they're the best shoe ever made. I've even had a couple pairs custom made for myself. I love Chuck Taylor All Stars.

But when I saw this guy and read his story, I think he may have taken it a bit far (ya think?). It seems to me that his life is defined by how many pairs of shoes he can collect (man, I feel stupid even writing that). Our first reaction may be to laugh and say the guy needs a life, but I think at the same time, we all can probably identify with this guy - if not with Chucks, then with something else. Everybody's got a single desire and passion - something they want more than anything else this world has to offer. This guy likes shoes, and he's not ashamed to say it. He posted this pic on the internet for crying out loud. Now everybody knows him cuz he likes the shoes.

I guess what I'm saying is that I want my life to be full on for living for Christ. I want my one singular passion to be to live for the glory of God. I don't want it to be shoes, a house, a family, a car, money, success, a career, friends, family, or anything but Jesus. That's what I want to define my life by. I want to post a picture on the internet of me living for Christ, and I want everybody to see it. And I won't be ashamed if someone thinks I'm a freak.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One Life: Action

MESSAGE: One Life: Action (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 6.27-42

In the middle of the 6th chapter of Luke, you’ll find Jesus’ instructions for the way his followers are supposed to live. It’s a long list, and there are many things that deserve our attention and practice. We won’t go over them here. What I’d like to focus on in this post is the opening of this section of instructions.

One of the most important parts of this section of scripture is the first seven words of verse 27. Jesus begins this section by saying, “But I say to you who hear….” This is a very important statement, and a very interesting way for Jesus to begin this section of instructions for his disciples.

Jesus is making a contrast. Clearly there are people who hear, and other people who don’t hear. Jesus is talking to those who hear. He’s not talking about the actually physical act or ability of hearing, he’s talking about understanding. He’s saying, “I’m talking to you who get it – you who understand.” And more than that, Jesus is talking to the people who will hear him and then do what he says.
The other option is people who hear physically, but don’t understand spiritually. Thus, they aren’t able to put into practice the things that Jesus teaches, try as they might. Think about that for a minute: those who cannot hear, cannot follow Jesus – they physically and spiritually can’t do it, because they don’t understand. If anyone who does not hear tries to do what Jesus says, they will pervert his words and his teachings, and their actions will be worthless.

Need some examples? There are three oft used quotes in this section that are commonly used in our society today. The first, and most well known, is Luke 6.31: “…as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” We call this the “Golden Rule,” and the reason why it’s so well known (despite the fact that it’s just common sense) is that this is a basic tenet of most religions – treat other people the same way that you want to be treated. And if you think about it, if people just followed this one rule, there would be a lot more happiness and peace in the world – If everyone just obeyed this one thing. In fact, Jesus says this one principle sums up the whole of the law and the prophets. So then why isn’t there more peace and happiness amongst people in the world? They can’t hear. They can’t understand. They don’t get it. Sure, they think they get it, and the rule makes sense to them, but they can’t put it into practice because they can’t hear. They’re selfish. They’re full of pride. They’re more about their own desires than they are the desires of others, so they don’t – they can’t – treat others the way they want to be treated.

Another well known statement from this passage is found in Luke 6.29: “To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also….” This is more commonly phrased, “Turn the other cheek.” Everyone usually agrees that turning the other cheek – not taking revenge – is a good thing, and should be practiced amongst our relationships. So why are there still problems? Why do people still desire to get even and take revenge? Because they can’t hear. They’re full of pride, and they won’t ever let anyone else get the better of them. They are spiritually (and physically) unable to turn the other cheek (even though they think it’s a good idea!).

The last little phrase is probably one of the most misquoted verses in all scripture: “Judge not, and you will not be judged…” Most people are familiar with the more traditional way of saying it: “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” How many times have you heard people say that? Even people who aren’t believers? Especially when Christians say something like, “Homosexuality is wrong,” the usual response from the gay community is “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” This is a complete misinterpretation of scripture, and it is actually quite ignorant. If Jesus truly meant that we couldn’t tell people that they were sinning, then he couldn’t either. That is to say that he would never tell us to do something or not do something that he himself either did or did not do. What he’s talking about here is hypocrisy. In other words, I can’t judge you for beating your wife, and then go home and beat my wife. That’s hypocrisy, albeit an extreme example. Most of the time, hypocritical acts are actually small and seemingly mundane, but they happen all the time. Jesus says don’t judge – don’t be a hypocrite. When someone uses this verse to justify their own sin, and condemn those who would identify their sin, they’re completely raping the true meaning of this verse, and do you know why? They can’t hear! They don’t get it. They don’t understand. If you can’t hear it, you can’t live it.

So then, as believers, we need to make sure we are hearing what Jesus is saying, understanding it, getting it, and DOING IT. Acknowledging the things that Jesus says as profound and deep but not living out what he is teaching is the same thing as not hearing. If you’re not living it, you don’t understand it. So the challenge is to hear it – and do it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Leave Me A Message

Working in the church means that you sometimes encounter some interesting individuals - specifically through the telephone. I've had my share of people whom I've never met before leave me messages on my voice mail, asking for peculiar things, people who are angry at God or something and our church happens to be the receptacle for their wrath, and people who are calling all the churches in the yellow pages because they've finally figured out when the world is going to end and they want to warn everyone. One of the weirdest calls I've ever had was from a guy who was specifically wondering if we had a "punisher" at the church. I repeated his request to make sure I heard him correctly, and he affirmed my understanding. I apologized and told him that we didn't have any punishers at the church. He thanked me and hung up. Weird.

And I've also had a couple calls by from people who are just being weird on purpose, or they're trying to be funny (at least I think they're trying to be funny). I just had a call this past week, which I transcribed for your enjoyment. The following message was left on my voice mail:

"Hi. I’m just calling to tell you that I’m an atheist and no, God f&*$ing doesn’t exist, so you can shove that s#&t up your a#!, ok? You can shove that "God bless you" s#^t up your a#@. I don’t believe in God, but I’m not going to disrespect you – I just don’t believe that God created us. I believe that science has its theories, and stuff. And well, no disrespect to you pastor, but, I have really strong feelings for this. I just want you to know that’s how I feel. I’m sorry if this hurts you. I’m just an atheist, and that’s how I am. Thank you."

The person who left the message was a female, and she sounded young. The reason I think this is a joke is because she immediately handed the phone off to another young girl who then expounded on the virtues of Catholicism.

The tone of the girl's voice, however, changed quite a bit towards the end of the message, which makes me think that she was, at least to some extent, very serious. She started out very angry, and then started to calm down when she was talking about not believing "that God created us" and then she sounded almost apologetic as she told me that she didn't want to offend me. Rest assured, young lady: I stand unoffended. I tried to access the number that called, but it was a private and unlisted number.

A couple observations regarding this message that was on my voicemail:

1) Kids, if this is your idea of a practical joke, you need some more practice. It was neither shocking nor funny. Your voice was cracking, you didn't know what to say, and your grammar was terrible.

2) It seems that kids are getting foul mouths at younger ages.

3) Atheism is a much more significant part of our pop culture today than it ever has been before. The official stat is something like 4% of Americans are atheists. And when you think about kids and their spiritual beliefs, none of them would have ever said they were an atheist when I was that age, but it's a much more prevalent thing in our society today.

4) Darwinian evolution is still the predominant brain washing method for public schools.

5) Kids are able to (and do) think about spiritual things. A lot of people don't put a lot of spiritual effort into kids because they think it's somewhat of a waste of time. But obviously, kids are thinking about these things and they're looking for answers (even if not honestly, or with much decency).

6) People in general are extremely disrespectful. This girl said she didn't want to be disrespectful to me. Uh, did she hear herself when she said, "You can shove that 'God bless you' s&%t up your a#%"? How should I respond, if not to feel disrespected? Should I feel happy? Even in my younger, more rebellious years when I myself had a foul mouth, I don't think I would ever tell anyone I had never met before to shove something up their you know where. I certainly wouldn't cold-call establishments I fundamentally disagreed with and completely curse out everything they believe. I've never ever told an atheist (or Buddhist, or Muslim, or Hindu, Jew, Mormon, etc.) to shove what they believe. I've never even told them something close to that.

Anyway, I just thought I'd post this so you can get a glimpse into the lighter side of ministry. It definitely has its perks!

Monday, August 11, 2008


I've been having a lot of "coincidental" things happen to me recently. I've been thinking a ton about the 6th chapter of Luke and all of its implications upon us as disciples in today's world. And then, someone emailed me today with some questions on the last message I did at SHOUT. And also today, these three articles ended up in my inbox - each one seeming to have quite a bit to do with my thinking recently. I found them to be extremely interesting, so I thought I would link to them here if anyone out there would like to read them. I recommend you do.

The first article is actually a Barna study that reveals the type of life Christians desire. Compare this to the life of sacrifice and humility Jesus wants us to live (actually, I thought the results were moderately encouraging).

The second article is a related Barna survey. This study looks at some of the data from the above study and puts it into the context of pursuit of the American dream.

The third and final article is one from USA Today and is about time, and specifically, how the way we view time (our lives) can dramatically alter our outlook on life, health, wealth, and relationships.

I thought all of these articles were good for further thought on what it means to be a disciple and apostle of Jesus.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Should Christianity Be Easy Living?

MESSAGE: One Life: Attitude (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 6.17-26

My life is changing. Every day I wake up, it seems that I am convicted about my life as a Jesus follower. God is pressing me and telling me that I can and should be doing more. He's given me so much - why should I give him anything less than all of me? I've been in this process now for probably the last five years. It's been interesting to think back and see how God has been moving, even in small and seemingly insignificant ways. I've been reading books that have convicted me, and studying the scriptures, and the conclusion that I keep coming to is that Christianity is more than just living the American dream and attending church on Sundays (this is an obvious conclusion, and one that I think most Christians would agree with in principle - agreement in practice, however, is a completely different thing).

Within this last year, I've read two books that have spurred me on in my conviction - the first of which is Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. I've written in this blog before about some of the impact that DWYL has had on me, so I won't go into it here. But even more impacting than that book has been Let The Nations Be Glad! also by Piper. If I were to sum this book up in a sentence, I would say that it basically explains the purpose for the existence of the church (and Christians) on this earth - it's all about spreading the gospel for the sake of the glory of God. The details of how this task is accomplished, however, are quite intricate, and I don't have nearly the amount of space needed to explain it here. Just please believe me, and read this book - it is a life-changer.

I recently gave my copy of this book to my mom to read, and today I asked her how she liked it. She said, "I'm only about a third of the way through the book. I can't read very much of it at one time - I get too stressed out." I asked her why the book stressed her out and she replied that the book is so "radical" (a term that I interpret as "challenging") that she can only read a few pages before she is so convicted by what she is reading that she has to stop.

Even more important than my reading of Piper's books has been my study of scripture. In every case, discipleship and a life of service to Jesus demands self-sacrifice - giving up all to follow Jesus.

This week at SHOUT we looked at Luke 6.17-26, where Jesus encourages his disciples to take heart when they are poor, hungry, sorrowful, and persecuted. And then we saw how Paul was able to be "blessed" in all of his trials and difficulties in following Christ: knowing Jesus is of far more worth than anything this life can offer - even all of the things that we take as a normal part of life in the U.S. - relationships, a house, stuff, money, a good career, etc.

I made the point that Christian faith in the U.S., to some extent, is easy. And if the truth be told, probably easier than the Bible intends it to be. And my conviction over the past five years is that the living of my own personal faith has been too easy. I haven't had to sacrifice - I haven't had to be poor - I haven't had to be hungry - I haven't been persecuted. Believe me, I am thankful for God's mercy in all these things, but sometimes I think I get too comfortable in God's mercy, and that causes me to take it easy and coast through my Christian life...and I don't think that's what the Bible's talking about when it describes the lives of those who follow Jesus.

My sister posted a blog a few weeks ago that also got me thinking. She makes some great points. Maybe the Christian life has gotten too easy:

I've been struck lately about how American religion has tried to make the act of worship, following God, and religious faith something simple, efficient and effortless.

There's a church advertising on a Christian radio station I listen to that says "Can't make it to Sunday morning church because you're up at the cabin? Come to our 6 p.m. service."

Now, I don't have a problem with a 6 p.m. service. I just finished being part of one. I'm in favor of night services and I know people work and can't make it in on Sundays. But instead of scheduling our lives around church -- the sabbath -- we're scheduling church around our lives? Shouldn't the demands of your cabin, softball league or TV viewing habits be subject to rescheduling for the Sacred?

The Muslims criticize Christianity because of our many translations of the Bible, and I think they have a point. I'm not one of those "King James only" people, but I'm kind of sick of the translations that put the Bible in "your own words" or the "come as you are" mentality at some churches. Studying a sacred text should be seen as just that, studying something that is sacred, otherworldly, and powerful.

I say all these things with the finger pointed squarely back at myself. I'm the chief of sinners when it comes to this. I don't give God and religious practice enough of my time. I don't make room for the sacred in my life. And that's the issue. We have to make room for the sacred. Interacting with God requires time and work. And that's something that our churches don't tell us.

Shouldn't religion butt into our lives, grab our attention and require work of us?

My Baptist tradition, which I appreciate and don't intend to deviate from any time soon, shuns tradition and ornament, but loses something of the sacred. We have rejected physical symbols, altars and places as imbued with special spiritual power, but we don't reiterate now what our spiritual ancestors put in the place of those physical things -- the importance of individual time, study and prayer with God.

Religion should be hard, should be demanding. We shouldn't dismiss it because of the difficulty. We should rise to the challenge, and work hard at being worthy of it.

Suffice it to say, I'm sick of my faith being easy living. I want to be challenged - I want to (gulp) suffer. I want to be poor. I want to be hungry. I want to leave and forsake all else to follow Jesus. God give me the strength.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Only Three Kinds Of Christians

Piper's last statement in this short video is: "There are only three kinds of people: there are goers, there are senders, and there are the disobedient." I have since written that statement down on paper and taped it to the top of my desk at work. I want to be a goer. I want to be a sender. I do not want my life to be spent in disobedience.

I forgot to post this video with the previous blog. Each week in August we are going to be viewing a "Don't Waste Your Life" video. These are videos that correspond with the book, by the title of, you guessed it, "Don't Waste Your Life." Starting in September, we'll be doing a Bible study based on this book by John Piper. If you want to make some serious changes in your life and dedicate yourself fully to God's business, you'll want to come to this study. When I read this book, it changed my life.

Thus in August, we're going through Luke 6 and looking at how we can NOT waste our lives as followers of Christ, by looking at how Jesus teaches us to think and act as his followers. So hit us up at SHOUT in August, and hit us up for SHOUT and the Don't Waste Your Life Bible study in September.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

One Life: Sent

MESSAGE: One Life: Sent: (podcast)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 6.12-16

I’m posting this a tad early because I’m going on a mini-vacation Sunday afternoon and won’t be back until Tuesday, and I didn’t want to wait that long in the week to post.

The very first thing we see in this passage is Jesus spending ALL NIGHT in prayer before he’s about to make a very significant decision when it comes to his ministry on earth, and the ministry that will continue after he leaves. The lesson? Prayer is important. Important enough to spend LOTS of time in it – especially in the dawning of a big life decision. Spend time seeking God.

Then Jesus calls his disciples to himself. A disciple (mathetes) is literally someone who is a student, or a learner. So in other words, Jesus has students and he calls them together for class. That being said, ANYONE who followed Jesus to learn from what he sand and did was his disciple. So at this point in the scripture, there could’ve been potentially hundreds of people that Jesus calls together. But Jesus’ focus is on 12 specific disciples of his, and he makes them apostles.

What is an apostle? Good question. An apostle (apostolos) is literally an ambassador or a messenger: he that is sent. Jesus is saying to 12 of his disciples here that they have graduated to the next level. He is now making them apostles.

This doesn’t mean that they STOP learning (being disciples), however. The text says that he ALSO made them apostles. They are to be sent out, and always learning as they go. Now they’ve just got another job of going out and delivering the message.

Who is an apostle? Another good question. Check out Hebrews 3.1:

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.

Jesus was an Apostle. He came to earth as the ambassador of God, sent to deliver to the people of earth the message of salvation through repentance and faith in his life, death and resurrection and sacrifice for sin. In a very real and literal way, Jesus was a messenger – he was an ambassador with a job to do – thus, by the literal sense of the word, Jesus was an apostle.

Usually, when the New Testament uses the word “apostle,” it’s speaking specifically about the 12 that are called here in this passage from Luke. They got the honor of being the original apostles of Jesus Christ. But also (and in a more generic sense), all believers are apostles. Check out Romans 1.5:

Through Him and for his name’s sake, we have received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the nations to the obedience that comes from faith.

It would appear here that when an individual comes to Christ for salvation, he or she receives 2 things: 1) saving grace – unmerited favor through the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, and 2) apostleship – the state of having been sent into the world with the gospel of Jesus. Why do we receive apostleship? Paul says: “to call people from among all the nations to the obedience that comes from faith.” In other words, so that all may people may come to faith in Christ to the glory of God. So then the answer to the question “Who is an apostle” when we look at the example of the lives of the disciples is: ANYONE who follows Christ and will bring his gospel to the world. So, in some form or in some sense, you my friend, are an apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Where is an apostle sent? Look at Matthew 10.5-6:

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Where is an apostle sent? To the people where they live. Jesus sends his disciples out to preach the kingdom of God, and he basically says, “Go to the people you know.” Don’t go to the Gentiles or Samaritans yet – go to the peeps within your sphere of influence. Go to the peeps you rub shoulders with – who speak same language as you – the peeps you know. But that’s not the only place an apostle is sent to. Look at Matthew 28.19:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Where is an apostle sent? To the nations. After telling them to go to the people within their sphere of influence, Jesus then tells his disciples out to preach the gospel to people they DON’T know. But even more than that – we’re talking people in other countries. People who speak different languages and live in different cultures that seem weird and foreign to us. People you DON’T rub shoulders with – countries where there aren’t any other Christians to preach the gospel to them. Jesus tells his disciples (apostles): GO TO THEM.

But there’s even another place that Jesus sends his apostles:

John 17.15, 18, 21 – I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 18) As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 21) …that they may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Where is an apostle sent? To the world. This is a rather generic sending, but it’s worthy of examination. First, Jesus sent his disciples to places they were familiar with & knew well – pretty specific. Then, Jesus gets a little more abstract and sends them into “all the nations” – places that are unfamiliar and maybe even a little scary or intimidating. Then Jesus bottoms out in the abstract department by NOT narrowing down who his disciples were to go to at all: not just a certain city, not just a certain people-group, not even just a certain country, but to the ENTIRE WORLD. In other words, the apostle is sent to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to each and every individual in the world. That’s a lot of people! True, but think of it like this: the apostle of Jesus Christ is to bring the gospel to each and every individual in his or her world: the people you work with – the people you go to school with – your friends – your family – the guy you pass walking down the street – the people standing in line behind you at the Kwiki Mart – everyone who walks into and out of your world is someone that you have been commissioned to bring the gospel to.

So, we’ve answered the questions of what an apostle is, who apostles are, and where an apostle is sent. So then, what does an apostle do? Here are a couple good examples: when Jesus SENDS the apostles out in Matthew 10 (read it for yourself – I’ll just summarize), he gives them instructions about what they’re supposed to DO: preach the gospel, do incredible things in the name of God, give freely to all, depend upon God for all things, go into the world, be filled with the Spirit, be like Christ, expect to be hated for his message, conquer fear with boldness in Christ, trust God to provide, preach from the housetops, don’t fear hatred and persecution, and deny all else to follow Christ. This is what the disciples (the learners) did when they became ambassadors – when they were sent out to preach the gospel. This is what an apostle DOES – read Matthew 10 for the specifics.

Another good example is the entire book of Acts – “The Acts of the Apostles.” What did the apostles do? They went about preaching the gospel and their stories are in the book of Acts. It’s the things that they did as they went about preaching the gospel. Basically all the things that Jesus told his disciples to do when he sent them out. This is literally all they do in the book of acts – go out into the world, and be witnesses to the gospel through the power of God in their lives. And because they were OBEDIENT to the call to go, the gospel went out among the nations and spread, and people came to Christ. All because a group of regular, average guys who all came from different backgrounds, lifestyles, careers, social statuses were focused on being obedient to do what they had been SENT to do.

One of my recent seminary assignments was to go over my past with a fine toothed comb and examine how God has been working in my life (even in my childhood) to prepare me for where I am right now, and to prepare me for where he may lead me in the future. It was an extremely beneficial exercise, and I’d encourage you to do the same. How has God worked in your life to prepare you to be who you are today in order to go into the world and preach the gospel to all creatures? Do you realize that you are, in some sense, an apostle of Jesus Christ? That you have been SENT with the good news of the gospel? If you do realize this biblical fact, then you must ask yourself some questions:

Where will you go? Will you go to the people who you work with? To the people you live with? To your family? To the people you live next door to? To the people you go to school with? To that guy across the street who you always wave to but never talk to? Will you go to the nations? Will you go across the ocean to an unreached country that needs to hear the gospel? Will you go to live and minister in uncomfortable and unfamiliar places? Will you go to the world? Will you walk down the street and pass a guy on the sidewalk, and will your heart break because you KNOW that this guy needs Jesus? Will you reach out in compassion with the gospel to the person standing in line behind you? If you are to be an apostle, you MUST go SOMEWHERE – these are your choices.

What will you do? Will you preach? Will you preach from the housetops? Will you do incredible things in the name of God? Will you go about giving freely to all? Will you depend upon God for all things in life? Will you go into the world? Will you be filled with the Spirit? Will you strive to be like Christ? Will you receive hatred and persecution with gladness because you trust God? Will you conquer fear with boldness in Christ? Will you trust God to provide in any and every situation? Will you deny all else to follow Christ?

But the bottom line is WILL YOU BE OBEDIENT? If you are to be a disciple of Christ, if you are to be an apostle of Christ, if you are to be a follower of Christ, if you are to be a servant of Christ, IF YOU ARE TO BE A CHRISTIAN these are decisions you MUST make, because:

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bunny Suicides

I'm sure this blog must be very confusing to some: it's full of rants about the deteriorating culture, blogs about spirituality and theology, Christian living, etc. And then, every once in a while, I throw in something like this post (also check here for another disturbing post).

A couple days ago my mom came into my office carrying two books, the first of which was titled "The Book of Bunny Suicides," and the second was titled "Return of the Bunny Suicides." She had been shopping at Goodwill and noticed them, flipped through them, laughed her guts out, and then (of course) immediately thought of me. I have to tell you that the books are hilarious. Each book is filled with cartoons that display different scenarios in which a bunny could committ suicide. I searched YouTube, and of course, someone has put several of the cartoons to video and music (gotta love the Rammstein - best German band ever). Take a look at this video and try not to laugh (they go pretty quick, so you may have to pause it at parts to really understand what's going on in the cartoon). Most of these are pretty sick, but also very funny. My favorites are at 0:31, 0:58, 1:24, 2:28, and 3:25.